BUILDING THE NEXT BIG THING
Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab) is Brown University’s premier 8-week summer (June and July) accelerator program for Brown and RISD students developing high-impact ventures. In many ways, B-Lab is a natural extension of Brown’s creative, problem-solving DNA. Our goals are two-fold: to educate world-class entrepreneurs, and to foster the development of new ventures that are creating high-impact and scalable solutions to serious problems. We take a supportive and rigorous approach to venture creation and see B-Lab as a springboard for ventures to go on to larger, national accelerator programs or directly to attracting outside capital. Learn more about the program and its impact on students in this short video below.
WHAT B-LAB PROVIDES
— Custom and sector-specific mentoring and workshops,
— Peer cohort of dedicated founders,
— Co-working space at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, and
— Award of $4,000 (for currently enrolled Brown or RISD undergraduate and graduate students).
This is an opportunity to work full-time on building your venture and meaningfully contribute to the entrepreneurial community on College Hill and beyond. If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com.
B-LAB INFO SESSIONS
We hold info sessions each fall semester. Sign up for our newsletter here to learn and keep a look out for announcements on Today@brown. Check out these videos of past information sessions to learn more from Jason Harry, B-Lab Director & Jonas Clark, Associate Director at the Nelson Center.
We are looking for founders that can clearly articulate the problem they aim to solve and have a general, (and hopefully tested) understanding of how they are going to solve it. We put together a resource guide to help you through the process, including what we are looking for when it comes to making your 2-minute B-Lab video and 3-minute BVP video.
MENTOR A TEAM
Mentoring is an essential part of the student entrepreneurship experience at Brown. Typically, students do well in the selection process when mentored through the application process. We are looking for mentors of all backgrounds to help student entrepreneurs with their Breakthrough Lab (B-Lab) and/or Brown Venture Prize (BVP) applications. The time commitment is an estimated 1 hour every one or two weeks until the application deadline. If you are interested in being a mentor for a B-Lab applicant, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. with the subject line: “I Would Like to Be a B-Lab Mentor.” New to mentoring or need a refresh? Visit our mentoring resource page.
B-Lab ventures have access to a dedicated workspace at 1 Euclid Avenue (on Thayer St), designed to maximize their progress.
Each B-Lab participant receives a $4000 scholarly award to enable their summer venture work. We will provide a Summer Earnings Waiver (SEW) to Brown students who need to meet the Standard Contribution (SC) from the Summer Earnings Expectation.
A NETWORK OF SUPPORT
A deep and knowledgeable roster of mentors, industry contacts, and experienced entrepreneurs.
B-Lab seeks to attract student
A concept for a high-impact venture and a thorough understanding of the problem they aim to solve.
A proposed solution that addresses that problem.
A plan for measurable objectives that the team plans to reach while in B-Lab.
An eagerness to contribute and be part of an entrepreneurial community.
APPLICATION PROCESS AND TIMELINE
Application Opens / Sign-up for an Application Mentor
We recommend that all prospective applicants request an application mentor in November.
If you apply for an application mentor after December 1, we will try but cannot guarantee a mentor match.
You can review the application here.
Don’t wait until the last minute! Late applications will not be considered. After the deadline, staff immediately assigns your application to a committee reader.
Finalist ventures notified
The B-Lab Selection Committee reviews applications and notifies finalist ventures to let them know if they have made it on to the next round.
Finalists interview with the selection committee.
The final cohort determined and notified
B-Lab ventures receive an email from the selection committee regarding their acceptance into the program!
Deadline to accept the offer
Finalists must notify the B-Lab staff whether or not they will join the B-Lab cohort.
What are you looking for most in applicants?
Above all, we value passion for the problem that you are trying to solve and the willingness to work hard to find a solution with impact. The ability to deal with ambiguity is also a major plus, as well as resilience to cope with the pivots, dead-ends, and doubts that are unavoidable in the entrepreneurial process. We believe that great entrepreneurs come in all different forms and from all different backgrounds, so there is no preference for market sectors, solution types, or venture approach. We are also looking for teams that have put considerable effort towards bottom-up research (all applicants are required to watch this video!) and have an understanding or initial sketch of their venture’s minimal viable product (MVP).
Who is eligible to apply to B-Lab?
Any full-time, currently enrolled Brown (or RISD) undergraduate, graduate, or medical students is eligible to apply to B-Lab and if accepted receive the $4,000 scholarly award. Students who graduate in December and May are eligible to apply and receive the scholarly award as well. Please note, that if you are on Brown leave in the spring semester, but you are returning as a full-time student in the fall semester, you are still eligible for B-Lab. All returning students (and accepted students into our program) need to complete an I-9 no later than the first week in May.
Alumni and non-Brown/RISD students are eligible to apply and participate in the summer program if accepted, but are not eligible for the scholarly award.
Do I need to be in Providence to do B-Lab?
Yes! We are excited to return in-person B-Lab programming and workspace to Providence for June and July each year. We recognize that some ventures or members of your founding team may benefit from not operating in Providence during B-Lab. If you have a compelling business reason or significant personal extenuating circumstance why you need to operate elsewhere, include a brief description in your application. If approved, we will provide for virtual participation in B-Lab. Please note this may preclude you from cohort bonding and in-person networking events and opportunities.
How can I get help with writing my B-Lab application?
You can receive mentorship from an alum or entrepreneur who is familiar with mentoring ventures and with our selection process. We also recommend reaching out to our Peer Entrepreneurs in Residence.
Can I pursue other Brown-related activities while doing B-Lab?
Not really. Our expectation is that B-Lab is your only major workday time commitment. As a serious entrepreneur, you’ll be putting significant energy into your venture. Other big distractions from that during normal work hours (UTRA’s, RA programs, summer courses (or the summer semester), etc.) aren’t really compatible with your venture’s, and B-Lab’s, goals. That said, we want you to live a full and fun life in Providence (or wherever you live) in your free time. And we’ll help that along with great B-Lab social events! We generally discourage students from being concurrently involved in other accelerators while participating in B-Lab, however, we will not use this as a determining factor of eligibility.
The B-Lab application requires a 2-minute video. What are you looking for?
We are not looking for the next Martin Scorsese or Ava DuVernay; just a simple 2-minute video featuring you and your team will do. This is not a video production contest, but rather an opportunity to learn more about you, your passion for the problem, and why you are the team to solve it. Upload your video to YouTube. Don’t mark it as private or disallow embedding on YouTube, so we are able to see it. Then include that link in your final application. Do not wait until the last minute to upload your video to YouTube. Give yourself enough time to allow for unexpected technical difficulties. We will not accept late applications. Here’s examples of what we are looking for. Questions? Or not sure how to do this? Email: email@example.com.
Does this need to be a commercial, for-profit venture to apply?
Definitely not! B-Lab fosters “high-impact” ventures that are commercial, social, for-profit, non-profit, or, in many cases, a blend of these.
Can I apply as a solo founder?
While we don’t have a strict rule against it, we strongly prefer applications with a founding team, and ideally a team that has worked together prior to B-Lab. Entrepreneurship is a tough undertaking and we have found that a diverse team of people is better able to build a successful venture. The ability to work well together is probably one of the highest predictors of success. Hence the old adage: an ‘A’ team with a ‘B’ idea is better than a ‘B’ team with an ‘A’ idea.
How does B-Lab compare to other incubators and accelerator programs?
Since we are situated within the University, we value our role as educators of entrepreneurs alongside our charge to advance high-impact ventures. We see B-Lab as a springboard for ventures to go on to larger, national accelerator programs, and indeed many B-Lab ventures do. Teams have gone on to Venture for America, MassChallenge, Techstars, and others!
Can I apply both to B-Lab and the Brown Venture Prize?
Yes you can! However, the Brown Venture Prize is designed to empower the most advanced entrepreneurial ventures founded by Brown students. It supports teams that have significantly validated an opportunity, and are nearer to creating “impact at scale.” We recommend, but do not require, participating in B-Lab before applying to the Brown Venture Prize. Many of the past BVP top contenders and winners have been B-Lab participants. To learn more about the Prize, click here.
How far along does my venture need to be? Just an idea? Revenue? Already closed a seed investment from Marc Cuban?
In truth, a venture doesn’t need to be that far along to be ready for B-Lab. A good idea is a great place to start, though we do prefer teams that have taken some thoughtful and concerted action on that idea (talked to prospective users, started building an MVP, etc.). It’s also great when a team has taken the time to think through what the roadmap to success might look like and how to get there (knowing, of course, that things can, and do, change quickly when building a venture). We highly recommend Y-Combinator’s Startup School as a starting point to learn more about venture development.
I’m a RISD/Spelman student – am I eligible for B-Lab?
Yes, most definitely! We regularly have RISD participants in B-Lab, and often on several B-Lab ventures. In fact, we believe that the Brown/RISD connection is a great source of entrepreneurial activity and innovation. Let’s keep it going!
Are international students eligible for B-Lab?
Yes, of course! We just ask that interested applicants visit the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS) early in the spring semester to ensure that they have filled out all the necessary paperwork to stay in Providence over the summer. Domestic students are not subject to withholdings, international students are subject to tax treaty benefits if applicable.
What if I’m working on something deeply technical? Do you support ventures like mine?
Yes, definitely. We recognize that ventures require a wide variety of support, including those that are working on deeply technical problems. In fact, we work hard to provide as many technical resources as possible (including lab space, technical advisors, etc.) and to tailor the program to the specific needs of each venture.
If I am accepted to B-Lab, what are the program expectations?
Being in the cohort means that you will participate in all B-Lab-related activities and programming for the 8-week period, including the opening 2-week boot camp, mentoring and venture meetings, and special events. Failure to be fully engaged could be reflected in a reduction in payments of the scholarly award.
Can I apply to B-Lab more than once?
If you previously applied but were not accepted into a cohort, you for sure can (and should!) apply again. If you already have participated in B-Lab, you can not apply again. Consider applying to the Brown Venture Prize.